74. Storm, May 14 (Visibility 5 miles, Duration 3 Hours)

“Looks like one hot summer”:
In the truck, impatient,
Riah drew her knee up
To her chin.
Tom made no reply.
“Guess it’s not time yet–”
She glanced his way.
Head turned, Tom drummed fingers
Like a threat.
“Least I’m
Getting me a coke.”
She stepped outside.

In the drugstore was the owner,
A.T., and Jeanette,
Who bought a soda too:
“What do you think, Riah?
When Jack Hance parked
Over at the bank, I
Thought the men would charge.
He’s got to have those checks.
They waiting for an
Engraved invitation?”
Riah’s nickel clicked
The red machine:
“Be bad to go in
If checks ain’t there.
Be like begging.
Everybody’s watching, too.”
“Well, why don’t Jack come out
And call them in?” Jeanette asked
Riah, her voice harsh.
“Jack’s not good at such.”
They headed out, loath
To return to cars.
“Riah, you seen Louise Kemp?
Wait till you see her hair–
Curls! Like she hopped off some
Comics page.”

Parked at angles, parallel,
Overloaded trucks,
Dirt-coated cars,
Headlights goggle-eyed,
From the corner stretched
Way up the street.
Riah sat,
The bottle in her lap.
Sand whipped out and in,
Tossing paper scraps
And rattling leaves.
Each car held men, women,
Maybe youngsters, four or five,
Shoving, punching, in the back.
Their parents tried to seem
Preoccupied, doodling lists,
Avoiding others’ eyes.
Glove compartments
Were cleaned out that day.
Windows were cranked shut
Against the gusts.
Stifled, they breathed
One another’s air.
Car roofs rippled
As the dust skimmed by.
They were sitting, waiting–
For a sign?
They’ll sit out here
Till Hell ices over,
Thomas thought. Why
Me? Why always
Me? Why I always got to
Play the fool.

Bud, Jack, visible
Behind plate glass,
Set up boxes
Stacked with white file cards.
A locked briefcase
Lay beside Jack’s hand.
When a truck door slammed
Too loud–no woman–
Ears were riveted
Like telegraph.
Collar up despite the warmth,
Hat pulled down,
Hands in pockets,
Tom walked hasty past
The headlights. Past
The barber’s. Past
The grocer’s.
To the bank.

There he stopped.
Jack looked up
With a grin.
Without a word,
Tom pushed against
The door. It closed
Behind him.

The End of Part One

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